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Késako, a workshop with the school Victor-Doré?

publié le 20 août 2015 à 08:59 par Catherine Claus   [ mis à jour le·26 oct. 2015 à 09:03 par Thomas Gaudy ]
I am Stéphanie Akré, president and cofounder of the NGO Ludociels for All. Our mission is to create educational and accessible video games for people in social exclusion. On November 17th, 2014, during the event 'Je vois Montréal' (I see Montréal), I committed myself to the name of Ludociels for All to encourage educational perseverance for handicapped youth (from 16 to 35 years old).

We furthered our goals when we partnered with the Recreational Community Centre in Côte-des-Neiges and the Neuronix Workshops, This happened thanks to a workshop centering around the creation of video games targeted at youth (16 to 35 years of age) who may live in isolating situations (they may not necessarily have any handicap, but are isolated from society by being unemployed, a new immigrant who doesn't speak much French, etc…). From this workshop, we have launched a new game, 'Blue Mountain', thanks to the help of the Intercultural Library of Côte-des-Neiges. Thomas Gaudy, our animator/ergonomist/creator of video games, has decided, thanks to his wonderful experience at this workshop, to continue the adventure by organizing another workshop with the school, Victor-Doré.

I'll explain what Victor-Doré is about in a few short sentences for those of you who don't know them. It's a specialized establishment for children from 4 to 13 years of age who show mobility deficiencies or organic disorders that may be associated with other deficiencies. The school celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2012 and can hold up to 190 students who all have at their disposal a multidisciplinary team of teachers, professionals, support staff and rehabilitation staff from the Marie Child Rehabilitation Centre. If you would like to learn more, check out their website: http://victor-dore.csdm.ca/
Photo Victor-Dore school Picture Victor-Dore school Picture Victor-Dore school
After a few email exchanges, Thomas and I were able to obtain a meeting with Marie (a remedial teacher) who is in charge of a class of students with profound handicaps. From that meeting, we were able to discuss our project to organize a workshop to create educational and accessible video games adapted to the needs of the children in her class. Marie was accompanied by Jacques (technician and IT specialist) and Jeanne (a representative of the school administration). Our project was well received and sparked a lot of interest. Marie admitted that she was worried that we would be disappointed in discovering the abilities of her "p'tits cocos" ('little ones', as she likes to affectionately call them). After explaining our goals by working with her recommendations and our ability to adapt our games to our targeted audience, she explained that there are needs that weren't met in adapted computer materials. She would like to use such materials in class, or at least make it available to parents who sometimes feel discouraged to continue interactions between their children and their family. We then agreed to a first visit fifteen days later, where we would be able to observe the interactions between the children in class, with computers at their disposal. When we left the school that day, our hearts and minds were full of gratitude towards this wonderful team who trusted us.

We returned two weeks later to Marie's class. It was 10:30am when we arrived at the school. As Jean-Paul Eid drew so well in his comic (http://victor-dore.csdm.ca/ecole/victor-dore-en-b-d/), 'The School of Invisible Children', is silent on the outside, but as soon as we entered the school and Marie brought us to her class, we started to hear the children. Some took part in their gym classes, others ran down the halls to join their class or towards different activities. We heard their laughing and exclamations mixed with the voices of the professionals in charge of their education, rehabilitation and well-being.

What struck Thomas in this school was the size of the hallways, the classrooms, the gymnasium… everything was built with wheelchairs and mobility devices in mind in order to allow the children to move about easily. Everything there is adapted to be accessible! Words that echo our mission at Ludociels for All.

Then, we met "them". Those for whom we created this workshop, the children. That morning, there were three present: a boy and two girls. They were coming back from the bathroom, two of them walked most of the morning, the third came back from a session with the physiotherapist.

The morning started with the 'hellos'. Marie introduced us and each child, one after the other, listened to the hello song "Bonjour mes amis, bonjour, bonjour, mes amis bonjour…" (Hello my friends, hello, hello, my friends hello…) by pressing on a big yellow button and then chose to whom they wanted to say hello by pressing on a representative picture of their classmates. Words, actions, gestures, signs, and looks accompanied each of the interactions between the teacher and her students.
Picture of computer Picture of a contactor
In her class, Marie is accompanied by Yvette who is part of the support staff. Her help is extremely valuable in order for Marie to teach, unhindered. Yvette helps the students into their chairs, searches for 'chewy' since the children can only bring things with their mouth (but must learn that not everything is edible or should be explored with their mouths), helps another to change chairs as hers was being adjusted and the she felt uncomfortable with the one she was borrowing in the meantime, etc…

The morning was followed by watering the plants for father's day, which was fast approaching. After looking at the pictogram that represented a watering can, the children used their buttons to grab the watering can and watched the water pour out. None of the children could talk, but they smiled, exclaimed, laughed, gestured, onomatopoeias, sounds, facial expressions, etc… It's like being a witness to a new language, and yet, they must also learn how to communicate and make themselves understood.

Then it was story time. Projected on a big screen like at the movies, were images accompanied by phrases and pictograms. Each section of the story is expressed by each child. Marie would read them a phrase and would show them the pictogram that corresponded to it, and the children would touch it, look at it, and talk about their experience. "Lola, the little bear collected flowers when she is on vacation", "look at the flower", "look at the pictogram with your eyes, touch it with your fingers, but don't scrunch it else you won't see it anymore, don't put it in your mouth, it's not one of your toys", "Do you smell how nicely flowers smell? Do you have it in your hand?", etc…

Finally, mealtime arrived too quickly. Yvette brought one of the young students their food a bit earlier to encourage them to eat. We bade the students and Marie good-bye, but we will see them again when they return back to school in September 2015 to experiment with them the games that we are creating for them. Thanks to that morning, full of emotion, we learned quite a lot, which will permit Thomas, our ergonomist and creator of video games to produce a custom-made game.

To be continued…

Stéphanie Akré.
Translation (french to english): Catherine Claus.

Note: all of the names of the staff at the school were changed out of respect and confidentiality.